“Drawn to a keen edge, smart, resilent Lachlan Fox is a tough, savvy hero who takes the reader on a fast and furious ride through a complicated maze of timely political intrigue. James Phelan has earned a new avid fan.” Steve Berry
Six names and one GPS location. A death list. He remembered an old Russian proverb….If there is a person, there is a problem. If there is no person, there is no problem. Time to make these problems disappear.
When ex-navy operative turned investigative journalist Lachlan Fox blows open the story of the decade, simmering tensions between India and Pakistan hit boiling point.
A continent’s water – liquid gold – is at stake and one man thinks nothing of a potential all-out war when there is big money to be made.
Before helpless millions die, Fox is determined to expose the currupt Umbra Corporation, and the man behind it, to the world. With hefty prices on their heads, Fox and his trusted man-at-arms, Al Gammaldi, are pittted against time, terrorist cells and rogue secret agents funded by dirty money. Flanked by news agency GSR and the FBI, Fox and Gammaldi are going to give as good as they get, but nothing can prepare them for the ferocity of this fight.
Fox knows that the truth alone triumphs…and this time it’s going to hurt.
Note: This is the 4th in the Fox series but you can read them out of order. Now includes a bonus sample of James Phelan’s new action thriller, The Spy, featuring Jed Walker.
Praise for The Spy:
‘Jed Walker is right there in Reacher’s rear-view mirror.’ Lee Child
READ BELOW FOR A SAMPLE…
BELLAGIO, LAKE COMO, ITALY
He rested the espresso cup on its saucer and looked out over the multimillion-dollar view. He faced a large window that formed the northern wall of the café; the long wooden table, like the building, had seen better days, but it would serve its purpose. The overcast day gave him a good reflected view of the movement behind him.
He looked around, casually surveying the scene, his senses on high alert. As he turned back to the view he caught his reflection in the window: he was already getting used to his short dark hair, parted without being neat. His deep tan could be from any country around the Mediterranean. His clothes were casual, Milan-fashion smart, too slick for him to be important, too creased to be average: muted tones, no stark blacks and no bright colours. He could be part of the new Lake Como crowd, or he could be part of the establishment. He could be any well-to-do Italian or western European. He could be a simple guy enjoying a coffee at his local café. He could be a nightclub owner. He could be a killer. He could be anyone.
His eyes fell on the fresco of Mary to his left. He looked at her, unflinching, as his hands moved quickly under the table, positioning the C4 explosive device – no bigger than three cigarette packets end-to-end – in the recess where the table met the wall. The explosive packed enough punch to take down the front section of the old brick building – anyone within twenty metres would be vaporised. He sat back and took one last look at the view before casually tossing a five euro note on the table.
He put on his sunglasses as he exited, the door’s brass bell jingling in his wake. His eyes were immediately drawn to a passing woman and he turned to watch her walk, with that certain sway of the hips that the women in this part of the world knew how to do so well. She looked over her shoulder, clocked him, smiled: Thank you for noticing.
He paused amid the busy winter morning, technicolour all around him. Locals finishing their morning espresso and pastry, tourists parading flesh in an attempt to keep up with the effortlessly stylish locals. He strolled down the main street and melted into the crowd. He had time to kill.
NEW YORK CITY
The anchor of NBC’s Dateline leaned towards the camera. ‘The UN has called this the decade of Water for Life,’ he said. ‘This is fitting when we consider that countries like the United States use up to four hundred litres of fresh water per person, per day, compared to some of the most populous regions of the world where people have to get by on less than twenty litres per day. Lack of access to fresh water, and compromised sanitation of existing supplies, results in millions of preventable deaths every year. This is a big issue, but it’s not a new one, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. Our guest tonight is an investigative reporter with news agency GSR, Lachlan Fox, whose recent articles have focused world attention on this increasing global problem. Lachlan is here with me in the studio in New York. Lachlan, welcome.’
‘Thank you, Matt.’
‘Our guest on yesterday’s program was Roman Babich, the resources tycoon listed by Forbes 2009 as Russia’s second-richest man. His company, Umbra Corp, has significant business interests in oil, natural gas, metals and the automotive and television industries – and is also one of the world’s biggest suppliers of fresh water, servicing water to some 900 million people in four continents, including the United States. Mr Babich joined us via satellite from our London studio to explain his company’s activities in his newest water venture, in northern Pakistan. Lachlan,’ said the anchor, turning to Fox, ‘you have written a lot about this issue. What’s your take on the consequences of this new endeavour?’
Fox straightened in his chair and took a deep breath. ‘Water is not just a political issue or a money-making venture,’ he said. ‘It is the key to life. Pakistan shares a ground water resource with India, and this new water plant will significantly impact how much water can flow into each country.’
‘Via rivers and irrigation canals?’
‘And the underground water table. Mr Babich has said that this project will be a boon for Pakistan, but the flipside to that is the impact it will have on India. India’s drought is dire, and their underground water table is already disappearing faster than it can be replenished. I don’t believe the full consequences of this project have been adequately thought through. Over a billion people rely on an agricultural area affected by this project, and as water grows even more scarce, so too do the livelihoods of those billion people. I fear that with the broader issue of fresh-water scarcity, one day we are going to wake up and it will be too late. But the point here is, it’s not too late yet for this region.’
‘So do you see this as Pakistan having the potential to take unlimited water from this shared resource?’
‘They are already – before this plant has even gone online – extracting water at a quicker rate than it’s being replenished,’ Fox said. ‘The UN is working on a treaty that would facilitate all countries having appropriate access to the water from natural sources—’
‘But it’s not in place yet?’
‘No. What we have to realise, even here in America, is that underground water is not a limitless tap. The central issue here is responsibility.’
‘Since your first story was published,’ said the anchor, checking his notes, ‘we have seen mass rallies and protests in India against the project. Let’s take a look at some footage.’
The monitors in the studio showed the streets of Punjab: residents protesting, rioting and looting; locals demanding access to fresh water and calling for retaliation against Pakistan.
Fox took a sip of water and watched the monitor. An image of windswept plains of dust gave way to one of thousands of farmers walking in protest to Delhi, reminiscent of the land reform marches of 2007.
‘This is shaping up to be a bigger security issue for these two countries than the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks,’ the Dateline anchor said. ‘India and Pakistan have long jostled and postured about their nuclear capabilities – is this new crisis inflaming an already volatile situation?’
‘Absolutely, Matt,’ said Fox. ‘India and Pakistan have fought over Kashmir for more than fifty years, and the location of this water plant has only added to the issues in the region.’
‘No other newspapers or networks were covering this, but following your articles it is now headlining news everywhere viewers turn.’
‘Well, we are living in a time when knowing the world is not a trivial luxury – it’s of vital urgency,’ said Fox.
The anchor turned a page in his notes. ‘Roman Babich made mention of his water project helping to keep Pakistan together. What do you think he meant by that?’
‘It’s a fragile state, it could collapse any day. Due to our military presence in Afghanistan, Taliban numbers in Pakistan are up, many areas are lawless at best, and the political situation is tenuous—’
‘And with that in mind, did you consider how your stories might impact the region? I mean, the UN Security Council is now considering sending in peacekeepers . . .’ The anchor ran through a list of statistics about the growing death toll from the long fought-over region of the Siachen Glacier.
Fox nodded, listened. He had heard these stats and clichés so many times since his first article appeared in Vanity Fair and the shit storm between India and Pakistan made it to the front pages of newspapers round the world.
‘Listen, Matt,’ Fox said. ‘I spent over five weeks investigating and writing that first piece, and more time since for the articles that followed. I wrote it for the same reason I signed on to be an investigative reporter in the first place: I want the world to know the truth – we need and deserve to know it. We need to take risks and report on issues and events that matter.’
Sitting under the Dateline studio lights was like sitting in a sauna fully dressed, and Fox felt sweat beading across his forehead and dripping under his arms. He imagined he looked like Nixon in the debate with Kennedy, when the poor old SOB was practically melting. After seven years in the Australian Navy’s Special Forces and then the last two years on the road as an investigative journalist, Fox was used to tight situations, but he wasn’t used to wearing a suit – or make-up. He drank more water as the anchor spoke:
‘Do you think your article could lead to a war between two nuclear powers?’
‘Matt, India has been a nuclear power since ’74, Pakistan since ’98 and, not to sound blasé, nuclear war has been a risk ever since.’
‘But clearly it was your—’
‘I didn’t chase this story to create a diplomatic stand-off; I chased it because we need to know what is really happening and have public debate about the consequences.’
‘Every commentator says your articles, Lachlan, kicked off two countries on a path to one irrepressible place: all-out war between two—’
‘The bottom line is,’ interruped Fox, irritated now, ‘that the issue of fresh-water scarcity is a global one, a fundamental one. This story would have broken one way or another. Yeah, sure, what we’re seeing in Pakistan – what Roman Babich and Umbra Corp are doing – could well be the beginning of a whole new reason for warfare in the twenty-first century. I’ve been trying to talk to Mr Babich for weeks now and he has refused to sit down with me. But this story isn’t going away, and I’m going to keep asking questions.
‘Make no mistake,’ Fox said, ‘water, like air, is a necessity of human life. It’s liquid gold.’